A 1997 PROFILE of the Diocese of Qu'Appelle sent to candidates in an episcopal election used the phrase "residential school" once. Today, the successful candidate from that election, Bishop Duncan D. Wallace, 62, finds much of his time occupied by the fallout from that one issue.
The profile said the diocese had to "support the development of indigenous leadership and models of ministry" and foster "greater inter-cultural understanding," but no one at the time could have foreseen the avalanche of lawsuits filed by Natives who claim they were abused in church-operated boarding schools.
The number of suits numbered about 330 as of last June, said Bishop Wallace in an interview. "So far, our (total) legal costs are over $297,000," he said. The diocese has projected revenues for this year of about $642,000. After Cariboo, Qu'Appelle is in the most difficult financial straits as a result of these lawsuits. (In a letter to Canadian clergy dated September 8, Archdeacon Jim Boyles, general secretary of General Synod wrote: "The Diocese of Cariboo has already exhausted its resources, and if nothing changes, The Diocese of Qu'Appelle and the General Synod itself won't be far behind.")
The litigation in Qu'Appelle arises from the church's operation of the Gordon residential school in Punnichy, Sask. Former school administrator William Starr pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting 10 students and was imprisoned.
About 230 plaintiffs have settled out of court with the federal government and, recently, the first out-of-court settlement was reached in connection with a lawsuit that named the diocese. "One hundred fifty thousand dollars is to be paid out. The federal government will pay it, but will try to collect a certain amount from us," said Bishop Wallace.
The diocese is in the process of projecting a budget for next year, so Bishop Wallace declined to estimate how long the diocese can keep operating. Referring to the financial situation, he acknowledged, "It's always there in the background." The diocese's next biennial synod will probably be in the fall of 2001, he said.
The diocese is working on healing initiatives for its indigenous population. "I spend a fair amount of time on the Gordon Reserve. I think I have a good relationship with the chief and council," said Bishop Wallace. Canon Helena Houldcroft is a liaison with aboriginal and non-aboriginal parishes and with General Synod about the residential school situation.
Rev. Dale Gillman, who is native, is based at St. Paul's Cathedral in Regina, and is working on counseling projects for natives in the city and on the reserve.
Bishop Wallace is no newcomer to the diocese. Before his election, he was dean of St. Paul's Cathedral for 20 years. Born in Kitchener, Ont., he was educated at the University of Manitoba and St. John's College, Winnipeg. He and his wife, elementary school principal Mary Emily Wallace, have a son and a daughter, both adults. …